Canada to help small airlines deliver essential services to remote northern communities

A file photo of Grise Fiord, Nunavut’s northernmost fly-in community. Federal ministers announced new measures on Thursday to support airlines that provide essential services to about 140 remote communities across Canada. (High Arctic Haulers/CBC)
The federal government says it will help support small airlines that bring essential services and goods to remote communities.

In a news release Thursday, the federal government announced new measures that address the “unprecedented crisis in the aviation industry” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government said the pandemic had a major impact on small airlines that provide service to remote communities.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced how they would support those airlines — “to avoid the disruptions that a sudden loss in these services would cause.”

The government of Canada says it will seek agreements with provinces and territories to make sure aviation services continue for at least six months. The federal government is also creating a $75-million funding program for the first six months, and will invest up to $174 million over 1.5 years to maintain the essential air services, if needed.

The funding is in partnership with contributions from the provinces and territories, states the news release.

More funding depends on “the needs of the communities and the pace of recovery of air travel into remote communities,” it states.

The money will help continue to supply food, medical supplies and other essential goods and services to communities, says the government.

For this program, the government says it considered about 140 remote communities across Canada that can only be accessed by air, or have limited transportation through seasonal ice roads, ferries or remote railways, states the news release.

The government says a fixed amount will be allocated to each jurisdiction with remote communities, based on historical passenger volumes.

Each province or territory would determine its minimum essential services to remote communities, and work on a program with airlines to deliver those.

The government’s list includes remote communities from seven provinces and all three territories.

“From day one of this pandemic our government has been working with partners to respond to the unique needs of northern and remote communities,” said Minister Vandal, in the news release.

“This support is positive news for all northerners.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut airlines get $24M governmental aid for COVID-19 in Arctic Canada, CBC News

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Greenland/Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland and Greenland implement COVID-19 testing for travellers, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Scandinavian airlines cancel thousands of flights and lay off most of their employees, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden to lift domestic travel restrictions in mid-June, Radio Sweden

United States: Airline shutdown creates new challenges for rural Alaska, The Associated Press

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